Summarising our thoughts on the Phenom 9600 first, AMD has seen Intel's desktop processor line-up transform from the ageing, slow Pentium to the Core-derived Duo and, a year ago, the Core 2 Quad.
Irrespective of whether you think that Intel's glue-dual-cores-together approach is architecturally inelegant, the fact remains that Core 2 Quad - in both its Kentsfield and new-and-improved Penryn flavours - is a fast and efficient processor in practically every way. AMD tried to match Intel's single-processor performance with its ill-fated '4x4 QuadFather' enthusiast proposition but has had to wait a year before releasing a couple of single-die quad-core parts.
We've disseminated all the various enhancements that make Phenom a better clock-for-clock proposition than Athlon 64 X2. We've identified that the design is elegant and maximises the architecture it's based upon, which remains largely K8. But what we've also seen is that AMD cannot match the clock-speed of Intel's slowest quad-core processor and, worse still, can't match Core 2 Quad's performance on a clock-for-clock basis either.
Put simply, AMD's best quad-core CPU last week was the Phenom 9700. Now, though, it's the Phenom 9600: AMD cannot produce effective yields at 2.4GHz. We can debate all day whether the majority of consumer software is threaded enough to take advantage of four execution cores, but the immutable fact remains that AMD's fastest quad-core offering is slower than Intel's slowest. Compounding this depressing statement for AMD is the January 2008 launch of Penryn-based Core 2 Quads, furthering Intel's performance dominance.
AMD's nascent Phenom also suffers under the considerable yoke of Intel's Core 2 Quad 6600 pricing, which at £165 for a hugely-overclockable 2.4GHz part is something of a bargain. AMD, though, is pitching its slightly underperforming quad-core part at roughly the same price. The industry needs AMD to survive and succeed yet it's very difficult to make a compelling buying recommendation for a processor that's a year behind its competitor - one who has already moved on to a more-efficient 45nm manufacturing process - is between 10-20 percent slower in most benchmarks, and costs much the same.
Our HEXUS.bang4buck graphs show that AMD needs to lower the pricing of the Phenom 9600 to, say, around £135 before it becomes a genuinely viable option to Intel's '6600, should your usage pattern reflect that of a heavy multitasker. If the Phenom 9600's pricing (£159) stays exactly where it is right now, it's a case of too little, too late, we're afraid.
Inextricably linked in with the new processor is the 7-series chipset. We're more bullish for its chances to succeed, primarily due to a lack of current competition from NVIDIA. The 790FX is geared for the enthusiast and is only hamstrung by its poorly-performing southbridge.
Lastly, the Spider platform - where AMD tries to harness the innate synergies of its processors, chipsets and GPUs - can be bettered by a mix-and-match assortment of Intel and NVIDIA hardware, we feel.
This conclusion isn't a vitriolic fulmination against AMD at all, folks. Rather, its products, whilst undeniably better than what it's produced before, don't quite match up to the progress made by its immediate competitors in the last 18 months. AMD's running forward in the right direction; it's just that Intel and NVIDIA appear to be sprinting that way too.
Bottom line: the new Phenom quad-core processor and 7-series chipset pack in some potent technology. Trouble is, Intel got there first. You need to be better than the competition if coming from behind: AMD's new launches aren't quite that.
HEXUS AwardsWe reserve absolute judgement until we review a full-production processor and motherboard. Right now, pressed for buying advice, we'd recommend our readers opt for the competition's processor, chipset, and graphics cards.
HEXUS Right2ReplyAt HEXUS.net, we invite the companies whose products we test to comment on our articles. If any of AMD's representatives choose to do so, we'll publish their commentary here verbatim.
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